10 Aug

TRS Provides Insight on Additional Meetings, Offers Alternatives for Those Without Face-to-Face Meeting Locations

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) and Aetna announced earlier this week several meeting locations for their Medicare Advantage seminars. Many TRTA members quickly contacted TRS and Aetna to make a reservation to attend one of these sessions.

Others have not been as fortunate. Many TRTA members have contacted us about not having meeting locations in their vicinity. In fact, some TRTA districts do not have any meetings scheduled in their area.

We are communicating your concerns directly to TRS. Many of you are making suggestions about locations where you would like to see these meetings scheduled.

TRS released the following statement:

“While working with TRS, Aetna assessed where the majority of the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage eligible participants live and then tried to design a schedule that would accommodate the vast majority of participants, so that as many participants as possible could attend a workshop in person.

Aetna will also be having conference calls for those participants who cannot make it to one of the scheduled workshops, and provide them with the same information & opportunity to have any question or concern answered.

Finally, after the first round of workshops, Aetna will continue to work with TRS to identify opportunities to deliver additional similar educational & informational sessions for participants as needed.

We may not be able to conduct a face to face workshop in every desired location, but we can certainly do some outreach or set-up an alternative plan such as a conference call.

Aetna will be responding to questions about alternate Medicare Advantage workshop locations just the same.”

We know that TRS and Aetna want to meet with as many TRS-Care participants as possible. Their goal is to answer your questions and provide you with the information you need to know about the new TRS-Care Medicare Advantage options.

TRTA will continue to work closely with TRS and identify additional locations. If and when new meeting locations are announced, we will update you through the TRTA Inside Line.

In addition, TRTA leaders and staff will attend meetings and report back to you through the Inside Line with answers to frequently asked questions.

As TRS indicates in their announcement above, there are also conference calls and webcasts that you may participate in to learn more about Medicare Advantage.

We also know that many of our TRTA members who live out of state have questions about the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage plan. We will work with TRS to answer your questions as well.

TRTA is encouraging TRS and Aetna to expand their meeting locations and total number of seminars. This is a challenging task, but TRTA believes that a change of this magnitude warrants as much direct, personal communication as possible.

Update from NCSL

As TRTA reported earlier this week, state legislators from all over the United States met in Chicago to discuss the many issues facing state governments. TRTA Board members and staff attended this national conference.

One issue gaining much attention at NCSL is public pension reform. This is a hot button issue in many states, and NCSL attendees received updates from states working on reforming their public pension plans.

Here are some of the key observations that TRTA leaders made at this week’s meeting:

  • Texas statewide pension plans, such as the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the Employees Retirement System of Texas, are not viewed by many to be “in crisis;”
  • Texas TRS is a well-funded, well-managed pension plan;
  • Only the most extreme advocates for drastic change to the TRS defined benefit plan may categorize public education retiree benefits as overly generous;
  • States making changes to their retirement plans, for the most part, have not made good funding or benefit decisions for many years, exacerbating the funding shortfalls these retirement plans are now experiencing;
  • Legislators around the country are struggling with the idea of making changes to their retirement plans, knowing that these changes may lead to higher costs for the taxpayer or a new class of seniors retiring into poverty;
  • This may be even more likely in states that are not coordinated with Social Security (like Texas);
  • Legislators in many other states are predicating their policy position on traditional retirement plans on the premise that younger workers do not want a pension plan;
  • TRS Texas provides a great value to all Texans with some of the lowest pension costs in the country, as well as one of the best-funded pension plans.

“The fact is that there are problems around the country when it comes to preparing for retirement,” said Maridell Fryar, TRTA State President. “Whether it is the state that has a public pension plan that is now underfunded due to decades of bad decisions by that state’s legislature, or the private sector model of defined contribution plans and personal accounts that are woefully underfunded, there are serious concerns about how this country will deal with older workers who are reaching retirement. The work now must be focused on improving these retirement options on a state-by-state basis; but in Texas, we must work to protect what we have,” said Fryar. “Texas TRS is working, it is well-funded, and it is a success. We can continue to make modest improvements in the years to come and ensure our public educators that they will receive their pension,” she concluded.

Many Texas legislators attending the conference talked to TRTA about protecting the TRS defined benefit plan. “There is still strong support for the TRS defined benefit plan in the Texas Legislature,” said Bill Barnes, TRTA State Legislative Committee Coordinator. “Unfortunately, our Texas legislators are hearing about changes in other states, and the groups and individuals pushing for reform elsewhere also are pushing hard to reform Texas TRS. We must work to protect Texas TRS and its benefit programs—both the pension plan and the health care benefit,” said Barnes.

TRTA is leading the effort to protect TRS retirement benefits. We know that you are working with us in this effort. The fight is intensifying, and we need your help to maintain these much needed programs.

TRTA will provide additional commentary on the NCSL meeting in upcoming publications.

Thank You

TRTA is so grateful for your support and membership. Retired and active public education employees must remain strong and united in the effort to preserve their retirement benefits. If you are not a member and would like to join, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650.

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06 Aug

TRTA and TRTF Release Legacy Video

Update on the TRTA 59th Annual Convention

Last week, over 1,000 public education retirees met in Houston at the Westin Galleria for the 59th Annual Texas Retired Teachers Association Convention! The convention is held in a different city each year, and serves as our opportunity to train officers and committee chairman from all 260 local units. We also conduct the statewide business of the association, including electing officers for our Board of Directors and voting on bylaws amendments.
In addition to business, attendees are also able to enjoy several enlightening activities. This year, our charitable arm, the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation, aired a special video with Foundation luncheon attendees on March 26. You may have heard about TRTF’s Legacy Campaign to promote a positive image of public education in Texas. Many TRTA members have donated generously to this program. Now, all of our members can view the first of many projects to be conceived from this initiative.
You may view the video, “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow: The Texas Public Education Legacy,” by clicking here or at the following link:
Please share this video with everyone you know: friends, family, and active teachers! Above all else, TRTF values public education and those who dedicate their lives to this noble endeavorWe hope the general public may view this video and feel the same appreciation that we do.
The TRTA Legislative Luncheon at Convention was a huge success with over 530 TRTA members in attendance with several hundred others watching the event in an overflow room. A panel of legislators that included State Senator John Whitmire and State Representatives Alma Allen, Larry Gonzales and Dan Huberty answered questions posed by Tim Lee about funding the retirement system and attacks from outside groups that oppose the defined benefit plan.
Officers for the TRTA Board of Directors were elected. Taking office on July 1, 2012 will be President Maridell Fryar, First Vice-President Francis Plemmons, Second Vice-President Nancy Byler and Secretary/Treasurer Don Vardeman. Herbert Norris will continue to serve on the board as Immediate Past President after his presidency concludes on June 30. 
Mary Jane Hamilton, who served as Second Vice-President for the past two years, resigned her position effective March 28 to join the TRTA staff. Ms. Hamilton will manage the TRTA schedule and plan major events, such as next year’s Convention in Corpus Christi. Her new title is Coordinator for Programs and Initiatives. We are happy to welcome her to the team!
The TRTA House of Delegates discussed and voted upon several bylaws amendments. Amendment 2 passed, allowing officers elected to the TRTA Board of Directors to serve two-year terms. Previously, officers served one-year terms with elections held every year. This change will take effect July 2014. A new business item introduced from the floor of the House of Delegates also passed, making the Local Unit Support Committee a permanent standing committee. No other amendments passed, though Amendment 7 to combine three standing committees was referred to the board for further study.
TRTA appreciates the dedication of our delegates. Your participation in this convention was vital and productive. We also want to give a special thank you to the volunteers of District 4 who hosted the convention. Their tremendous energy and organizational skills made everything operate smoothly!
Next year’s Convention in Corpus Christi marks TRTA’S 60th birthday and will occur April 9-12, 2013. TRTA looks forward to working closely with District 2 in planning this milestone event!

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06 Aug

TRS Announces Medicare Advantage Seminars

See Below for Dates and Locations Near You!

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) has released information about the upcoming Medicare Advantage seminars. TRTA members and all TRS-Care participants can make plans now to attend one of these information sessions. TRS has assured us that they will do all they can to provide you with information about this new option, including the doctor and hospital network available in your area.

The list of upcoming meetings is provided below, and are also available as PDF files sorted by date (click here) and by district (click here). You also will receive this list from TRS in the mail soon (click here for that mailing). TRTA will update you if this list changes or if new locations and dates are added.

Please be advised, space is limited at each facility. TRS is asking that you call ahead to make reservations. The number is 1-800-831-2057 (TDD: 711) and is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week.

Workshop options:
Thursday, August 23 & Friday, August 24
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Hilton Austin Airport
9515 Hotel Drive Austin TX 78719

Monday, August 27 & Tuesday, August 28
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Stafford Center
10505 Cash Road Stafford, TX 77477

Monday, August 27
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Hyatt Richardson
701 East Campbell Road Richardson, TX 75081

Tuesday, August 28
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Richardson Civic Center Grand Hall
411 West Arapaho Road Richardson, TX 75083

Monday, August 27
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Education Service Center Region 20
1314 Hines Avenue San Antonio, TX 78208

Tuesday, August 28
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Marriott Northwest
3233 NW Loop 410 San Antonio, TX 78213

Wednesday, August 29
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Smith’s Lone Star Event Center
4036 FM 2767 Tyler, TX 75708

Wednesday, August 29 & Thursday, August 30
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Hilton Hobby Airport
8181 Airport Boulevard Houston, TX 77061

Thursday, August 30
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The Mesquite Convention & Expo Center
1700 Rodeo Drive Mesquite, TX 75149

Friday, August 31
10 a.m.
Harlingen Community Center
201 East Madison Avenue Harlingen, TX 78550

Friday, August 31
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Waxahachie Civic Center
2000 Civic Center Lane Waxahachie, TX 75165

Tuesday, September 4 & Wednesday, September 5
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Will Rogers Memorial Center
3401 W Lancaster Avenue Fort Worth, TX 76107

Wednesday, September 5
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center
1601 Lake Robbins Drive The Woodlands, TX 77380

Wednesday, September 5
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Ortiz Center
402 Harbor Drive Corpus Christi, TX 78401

Thursday, September 6
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Pasadena Convention Center & Fairgrounds
7902 Fairmont Parkway Pasadena, TX 77507

Thursday, September 6
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Arlington Convention Center
1200 Ballpark Way Arlington, TX 76011

Friday, September 7
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Beaumont Civic Center Complex, the Julie Rogers Theatre
765 Pearl Street Beaumont, TX 77704

Friday, September 7
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Grapevine Convention Center & Palace Arts Center
1209 South Main Street Grapevine, TX 76051

Friday, September 7
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Holiday Inn
800 Garden Street Laredo, TX 78040

Monday, September 10
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Waco Convention Center McLennan Hall
W. 100 Washington Avenue Waco, TX 76701

Monday, September 10
10 a.m.
The Amarillo Civic Center
401 Buchanan Street Amarillo, TX 79105

Tuesday, September 11
10 a.m.
Education Service Center Region 9
301 Loop 11 Wichita Falls, TX 76306

Monday, September 17
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The Summit
120 N. Festival Drive El Paso, TX 79912

Tuesday, September 18
10 a.m.
Education Service Center Region 14
1850 Hwy 351 Abilene, TX 79601

Thursday, September 20
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Education Service Center Region 18
2811 LaForce Boulevard Midland, TX 79706

Thursday, September 20
10 a.m.
McNease Convention Center
500 Rio Concho Drive San Angelo, TX 76903

Friday, September 21
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Education Service Center Region 17
1111 West Loop 289 Lubbock, TX 79416


TRTA Follow Up

TRTA will attend the first meeting and report back to you about the information TRS and Aetna are providing. We hope this will help you prepare the questions you want to ask and learn more about how the new Medicare Advantage option may affect your decision to remain with the plan or opt out.

There are several areas that do not seem to have TRS and Aetna seminars scheduled. We will continue to work with TRS to ensure that all TRS-Care participants will have a chance to attend an information session in their area.

These are major changes to your health care options and we know you have many questions. Make plans now to attend one of these sessions. If you are unable to attend, you may want to contact a TRTA local unit leader in your area and ask them to help get answers to your questions. The TRTA local unit network can be viewed by clicking here.

TRTA Leaders Head to National Conference

The National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL) kicks off this week in Chicago, IL. State legislators from all over the country will attend. A major discussion item at this year’s conference is changing educator and public employee retirement plans from traditional defined benefit plans to other types of private retirement plans.

Several members of the TRTA Board of Directors and TRTA staff will attend to learn more about what other states are doing to change their retirement plans. Also attending the conference are many Texas legislators. TRTA officials will have an opportunity to promote the success of the TRS defined benefit plan and the continuation of the TRS-Care health insurance program. You can follow TRTA NCSL updates on Facebook. TRTA will also update you via the Inside Line.

TRTA Thanks You!

The TRTA membership is growing and we want to thank all of you who have already renewed your TRTA membership and are working to recruit new members.

We all know that our TRS defined benefit plan in under attack. We must work together and stand against these attacks. Now is the time to get involved. If you are not a member and would like to join TRTA in protecting your TRS retirement and health care benefits, please contact us at 1.800.880.1650. We are happy to answer your TRTA membership questions.

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